- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More than half of American teens have grown up with parents who “rejected each other,” which bodes ill for the nation’s future leadership, productivity, wealth and well-being, says a new national report on American families.

Only 45 percent of teens, aged 15-17, have grown up from birth with their married, biological parents, says the new U.S. Index of Belonging and Rejection, released Wednesday by the Family Research Council (FRC).

These intact families are in the “belonging” category.

The other 55 percent of teens experienced some form of parental rejection in their young lives. They “have seen their mother and father walk away from each other,” explained Patrick Fagan, director of the FRC’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute.

This has meant most U.S. teens have grown up with a single parent and/or other adults, such as parental lovers, stepparents, other relatives, or foster or adoptive parents.

When a child’s father and a mother reject each other, either by never marrying or by divorcing, it “seems to be a private act, but it has very public consequences,” said Mr. Fagan.

The nation’s families affect “human, social and moral capital,” which directly affects the financial, and thus indirectly the military and foreign-policy strength of the United States, he said, adding, “a nation is only as strong as its citizens.”

Moreover, taxpayers are paying ever-higher sums for public services to support broken families, he said, citing education, health, mental health and justice systems as areas of ballooning costs.

And these are just the external issues: The indices of belonging and rejection point to “hidden, deep suffering” by children and adults, said Mr. Fagan.

The new index, which is based on data from the Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey, measured “belonging” and “rejection” by state, major city, race and ethnicity.

Among black families, only 17 percent of teens are being raised by their married biological parents, said Carol Swain, professor at Vanderbilt University School of Law.

The alarm on this problem was sounded 40 years ago by New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, she said. But back then, academics soothed everyone’s fears by saying that “black families were not in danger” and that they were just “adapting” themselves in a post-slavery world.

“We know some of the most dangerous ideas in society come out of academia, usually the Ivy League,” Ms. Swain said tartly.

The state of the black family should be a No. 1 priority with black advocacy groups, black clergy and black political leaders, beginning with President Obama and the Congressional Black Caucus, she said. As recently as 1970, 68 percent of black families were led by married parents, she said.

“We are hopeful [the index] will refocus the national debate on where we are headed as a nation and best help the next generation realize what is known as the American Dream,” said FRC President Tony Perkins, who attended Wednesday’s event with researcher Nicholas Zill, who assisted with the index, and Laura Beavers, coordinator of the Kids County Data Book for the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

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